Civic leaders recognized at Town and Gown ball

Posted: Monday, January 22, 2001

Central Kenai Peninsula socialites took advantage of the annual Kenai Chamber of Commerce Town and Gown Awards Ball Friday night to turn out in their most resplendent finery.

Evening gowns and tuxedos (or at least a clean shirt and tie) were the order of the evening as the community's most valuable citizens were honored.

Carol Ford received the Community Service Award for her ceaseless efforts as a storyteller, actress and stage director. Ford was the driving force behind last year's Kenai Performers' production of "Fiddler on the Roof," which set attendance records for a theater production in Kenai, as well as the dinner theater production of "The Foreigner," another sellout.

Ford has directed and acted in 18 Kenai Performers' productions in the past 20 years, as well as bringing performances to Nikiski Middle-Senior High School, the Kenai Senior Center and Wildwood Correctional Facility. Her current project, "The Music Man," promises to be another musical extravaganza. It is scheduled to open in February.

Ford was just one of the winners from her family Friday night, as her father- and mother-in-law received the coveted Log Cabin Award. The list of achievements by Mary and George Ford, read by master of ceremonies Fred Braun, showcased a lifetime of community service.

The Fords, Mary a retired journalist for the Peninsula Clarion and Milepost, and George, a retired manager of the Agrium fertilizer plant in Nikiski when it was known variously as Collier, Union Oil and Unocal, were recognized for involvement with the Rotary Club, United Way, American Petroleum Institute, Kenai Bicentennial Visitor and Convention Building Committee, Central Peninsula General Hospital board, The Salvation Army, Historical Society, the book "Once Upon the Kenai," and the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center Museum advisory committee.

"The list of their talents and dedication to local organizations and publications goes on and on," Braun said. "We have only scratched the surface of the accomplishments and involvement of this couple this evening."

The list of achievements by the night's winners of the Pioneer Award are equally as impressive. Anita and Mark Necessary were praised for their involvement with the District Attorney's office, Boy Scouts of America Troop 357 and Cub Scouts. Mark, the retired general manager of the Tesoro Alaska refinery, was recognized for his involvement with the Kenai Chamber of Commerce for "countless years" and his presidency in 1996, as well as his leadership with the Kenai Peninsula United Way. The couple also headed up the Peninsula Winter Games in 1999.

"They are both a great help, and some of the chamber's favorite volunteers," Braun said.

As outgoing president of the chamber board, Braun had the privilege to present the President's Award, which he gave to Kenai Peninsula College Director Ginger Steffy.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President Tim Navarre was honored with the chamber's Volunteer Award.

"He's known to some of us as the 'never say no man,'" Braun said of Navarre, who is perennially the chamber's Santa Claus. "He may be very busy, and might bring it down to the wire, but will always come through with what you ask."

Navarre, who works for Arby's, the family business, serves on the chamber board, is president of the Eagles club and is the assembly's representative to the National Association of Counties. He has served on the United Way, Industry Appreciation Day and North Pacific Volcano Learning Center boards, as the Sterling Senior Center's pie auctioneer and helped with several golf tournaments.

The Business-Organization Award went to Dena and Scott Cunningham, owners of the peninsula's McDonald's restaurants, for the numerous donations of time and resources they have made. They donate to many fund-raisers and provide the muffins and juice for all Blood Bank of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula Center drives, donate hot chocolate to the Village of Lights celebration and to the chamber's Wine and Beer Experience.

Dena currently serves on the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce board of directors and is a sponsor of the Safe Kids program. Scott is a current board member of the Kenai Peninsula Oilers baseball club and is a coach and sponsor of a Little League T-ball team.

After all the awards were presented, the crowd danced well into the night to the local quintet The Backseat Drivers.

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